Trouble in Marina City

The Vero Beach marina is a Municipal Marina. Which means it is owned and operated by the City of Vero Beach. Which means it is often mired by bureaucracy and shifting politics and when you add to this, poor reporting, by some of the local newspapers you have a big mess

First, let’s look at the politics. You have an elected city council that is called upon to make decisions about the city marina. How many of these elected council members have experience running any kind of a business? How many of them have experience in running a marina? Do any of them even own a boat? You also have an appointed City Manager who tries to keep the city council together and more often than not this manager has to shift positions every two years after an election.

Vero Beach City Council

Our marina has a Captain’s Lounge and during the off season, not many of the local boaters visit this lounge, the reason being, it is often frequented by “sowers of discord”. You probably recognize this group. They have nothing good to say about anything, and most of what they do say is bull hooey. Yet, on two separate occasions this is where a reporter from one of our local free newspapers gathered and printed their misleading and deceptive nonsense. The reporter would have received an entirely different picture had they “interviewed” the hundreds of visitors that come through our marina every year.

Considering all of the above, you can see why our marina “owners” have trouble making good decisions

The Death Boat

If your slip is on the fuel dock and the same dock as the marina office, you are more than likely to experience a lot of foot traffic, drama, excitement, humor, and perhaps pathos as you mess around in your boat.

Douglas was a reclusive live aboard whose boat slip was located on the fuel dock. Right across from Sunday II. His boat was there when Sunday II arrived in 2013 and based on the barnacle growth he never took her out. She was a 37-foot sloop and the only time she was ever washed down was when the marina crew pressured cleaned her topsides.

Like most boaters, Douglas had a history, but none of us knew about it at the time. He was also busy below decks but we did not know this either.

The boaters on the fuel dock (C dock) are a congenial lot. Many are sailors, always ready to offer advice, lend a hand, or tell a story. Not Douglas. He stayed to himself, talking little, living a solitary life. He was rarely seen and when he was seen off his boat he was riding his small motor scooter, and once was spotted at a local pharmacy. Even though his boat was tied up in a slip just a few feet from the marina office, and he was a live aboard, it was not unusual for him to go unnoticed for days on end.

On several occasions the boat owner in the slip next to Douglas complained to the dock master about the unkempt condition and odor permeating from his boat. The owner/captain of a 40’ charter catamaran, in a slip across from Douglas, was also concerned about the general disarray of the boat and the effect it had on the foot traffic that constantly traversed the “C” dock. Apparently, Douglas was not concerned about the condition of his boat. After the death, we learned this had not always been the case.

Sometime in June, Douglas died in his boat at the base of the stairs he couldn’t climb. He had his cell phone at his side. Several weeks later, on a hot July 1, a marina worker found the 73-year-old’s body after opening the closed hatch above the stairs when knocking got no response. A “C” dock security camera captured Emergency Medical Service personnel, in Hazmat suits, removing the body from the boat. According to what police learned, he died there alone, passing from incurable pancreatic cancer after being under a doctor’s care.

deathboat
The Death Boat

Evidently, the marina is not required to maintain an emergency contact list so it took some police work to find Douglas’s brother and daughter. His relatives had to hire someone with HAZMAT equipment to go into the boat and retrieve personal items. They also discovered his hidden hobby: Painting landscapes and seascapes. These paintings were removed from the boat and lined up the length of the “C” dock to air out. Douglas painted the open scenes he had once cherished.

His daughter said that Douglas had been extremely outgoing and he was a leading yacht salesman and experienced sailor in Maryland until the ‘love of his life, his wife, died’. When his wife died, a major change came over him and he sailed south and became the reclusive, permanent, live-a-board resident of the marina.

The obituary of Douglas J. Hansen reflects everything we knew of him:

TCPalm Obituary

Douglas’s family has no interest in boats and its history was making the boat hard to sell. In addition, it has been difficult for them to find someone willing to go aboard and clean out the boat. The boat was sealed shut with tape and plastic and remained in the same slip on C dock; much to the chagrin of all the other boat owners on C dock.

How do you think the other boat owners felt about having the Death Boat left on their dock? Here are some log entries:

July 2nd- There is an odor lingering in the area and in my opinion the boat needs to be moved as soon as it is cleared by officials. The boat is in dismal condition and it has not moved for as long as I have been here. At one time the Marina crew pressure cleaned the topside of the boat because it was in such bad shape. I need to talk with marina personnel to find out what the plan is for the boat.

July 6th- I am waiting to see what is going to happen with the “Death” boat in the slip in front of me. The Hazmat people are supposed to be here today to clean out the boat. I had a call from the Vero Beach City Manager yesterday and he basically said the city was doing everything they could to take care of the “Death” boat issue. The “Death” boat belonged to Doug Hansen. I met his brother and daughter today. They are here from Maryland and have no knowledge of boats. Also, the Hazmat people were not interested in cleaning Doug’s boat. So, now the question is what’s next.

July 13 – Death boat is still here and latest comments were, they were having trouble finding someone to tow the boat out of the marina. Should I ask to move my boat to the North dock?

July 16 – I spoke with (another boat owner) and he said he is going to talk with the Vero Beach City Manager about the death boat. He also said he is going to personally visit the City Manager’s office to air his concerns about the death boat and he has some recommendations for the City Manager and the marina. 1130 – Secured topside cleaning because the odor coming from the Death boat is at times overwhelming.

July 18 – I received a return call from Charles Vought of the Heath Department and basically he said there is not a health issue with the “Death Boat”. The biggest issue would be with the odor and there are no risks involved with the odor.

August 02 – It has been over a month since the body was discovered in the “Death Boat”! When are they going to take care of this problem?

August 18 – I met the reporter (local paper) and she asked questions about the “Death Boat” We talked for about 1 ½ hours. I do not know when or if her article will be published.

September 02 – Today I sent an email message regarding the Death Boat to the Vero Beach City Manager. Not long after I sent the message the City Manager informed me that they would be taking the Death Boat out to a mooring on Tuesday of next week.

September 06 – The “Death Boat” is supposed to be moved to a mooring today, according to an email message I have received from the Vero Beach City Manager. This may not happen because the weather is “iffy”. 1500- Marina personnel have towed the Death Boat out to a mooring.

Almost ten weeks to the day that the highly decomposed body of Douglas was found in his boat.

The Death boat sat on a mooring at the marina for over a month and then it disappeared. We have no creditable information on what happened to it. A couple of speculations have emerged including someone bought it to strip off anything worth salvaging and someone bought it cheap and is cleaning it up in secrecy hoping to sell it without divulging its history.

Know anyone who recently bought a used 37-foot sailboat in Florida?

Choosing A Marina

Based on my own experience and comments from professionals around the web, when selecting a marina for your boat there are quite a few things to consider. As a matter of fact when planning this post it was L O N G!!! So it was decided to provide an overview in this post and for those who want the long list of items, they can open/download the 6 page PDF file that is included, and get the Full Monty😎

Choosing_A_Marina

It all boils down to this, – “Like buying a boat, choosing a marina can be a series of compromises and any number of factors should be considered, including cost, location, condition and amenities.”

Maiden Voyage

The sea trials are over, the introduction lessons are over, and the crew is in St. Augustine and ready to go. The boat has been signed off and accepted and we are preparing to get underway.

There are two options: One, go out of the St. Augustine Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean and spend about 60 hours at sea. Two, stay inland and use the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and split the trip into 2 nights, staying at marinas along the way.

One of my crew-members is a retired United States Coast Guard Master Chief with years of boating experience. After looking at my punch list we felt it best to stay “inside” in-case there are additional problems. ** My other crew-member is the wife of the USCG chief and she is also an EMS Paramedic. We had all of our bases covered.😎

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A Draw Bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway

We departed St. Augustine for the Halifax Marina via the ICW. We stayed overnight in the marina then departed the next morning for the Titusville Marina. After an overnight stay in Titusville we headed for the Vero Beach City Marina, which will be Sunday II’s home port.

When we departed the Titusville marina, I spotted a sailboat tied to a mooring that looked exactly like Sunday I, our first boat. She would have been over 40 years old by now. I think I heard her say, “I wish you joy!”, which is an old saying in the English navy.

VBCMairviewNorth

The Vero Beach City Marina and Mooring Fields

VBCMDriveway

Driveway Entrance Into The Vero Beach City Marina

**When I think back on this, and if I had to do it all over again, I would take about two weeks in St. Augustine and thoroughly go over the boat. Do not sign off on the boat until all of the problems I have found were taken care of by the manufacture. To be sure, some of the problems did not show up immediately, but many of them should have been corrected while Sunday II was in the yard at St. Augustine. As a teacher, I often told my students, Do Not Hurry, Do Not Worry, Do Not Be Afraid. I should have listened.

The Sloop John B

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Ready

After the decision has been made to purchase a boat, there are lots of things to do to get ready.

First and foremost, what is your total budget? You need to establish a bottom line amount that you are willing to spend on this purchase. This is basically the total amount you are going to give to the dealer/seller PLUS the amount you will need to spend after the boat is in the water, purchasing items to make the boat safe and sail-able.

Once you know your budget, these questions are a lot easier to answer: Size, sail or power, new or used, make and model? Again, there is a plethora of information on the web to help (or confuse) you on each of these questions.

Sunday II was a brand new boat. The Marlow Hunter 33 was the cursing boat of the year in 2012 and the ASA used the Marlow Hunter 33 for their training courses. And it could fit within my budget. (In a later post I’ll explain why I would not buy another Marlow Hunter) ☹️

Once you have a general idea of the size of boat you are looking for and an estimated time line for the purchase, you might want to stop by a marina(s) and get your name on the waiting list for slips. Choosing a marina is a whole POST in itself!!!